Ukrainians "have made the Bible come alive for the world," Archbishop Borys Gudziak, head of…
Ninety years after Holodomor, Ukrainians face new genocide, while changing the world, says archbishop
NEW YORK (OSV News) – Ukrainians are marking the 90th anniversary of one genocide, while battling a Russian invasion that has been declared by many to be a second genocide – and changing the world in the process, said Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
The archbishop joined hundreds at a Nov. 19 ecumenical prayer service hosted by St. Patrick Cathedral in New York City to commemorate the Holodomor, an artificial famine in Ukraine engineered by Soviet Union leader Josef Stalin between 1932-1933. Named for the Ukrainian words signifying “hunger” and “death,” Stalin’s famine claimed approximately seven to 10 million Ukrainian lives in tandem with a brutal Soviet policy of collectivization, theft, terror and abuse that sought to erase Ukrainian cultural and political identity.
Among the dignitaries attending the 35th annual gathering, which was organized by the Ukrainian American Congress Committee of America, were Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Ukraine Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya, and Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer at the United Nations.
The Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York provided requiem music for the service.
The event was preceded by a solemn procession from St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church in New York’s East Village section, with many participants in traditional attire and carrying stalks of wheat, emblematic of the Holodomor.
Speaking in both Ukrainian and English, Archbishop Gudziak said neither the Holodomor nor Russia’s current war on Ukraine could erase “the God-given gift” of human dignity – a gift that Ukrainians were defending at the cost of their own lives.
“Ukrainians today are standing up … (and) saying, ‘My God-given life has an eternal destiny, and … even if it takes giving it away, I will do the right thing,'” the archbishop said.
In the process, Ukraine has become “the epicenter of global change,” challenging the “radical dictatorship of subjectivity, where everything is transactional,” he said.
“In the 21st century, when we’ve deconstructed just about everything, when it’s your perspective, my perspective (and) … there is no truth, Ukraine is saying, ‘Oh no. This is good, and this is absolutely evil. This is false, and this is the truth,'” Archbishop Gudziak said.
That recognition is essential, he explained, citing the work of Yale historian Timothy Snyder on the role of denial in enabling human atrocities.
“One method, one precondition of contemporary genocide is the negation of the past,” Archbishop Gudziak said.
The Holodomor itself was largely ignored by Western press at the time, with the notable exception of Welsh investigative journalist Gareth Jones, who traveled through Ukraine and publicly reported on the famine. However, Jones’ work was disparaged by Walter Duranty, Moscow bureau chief for the New York Times, who had both interviewed and praised Stalin for efforts to industrialize the Soviet Union — writing that led to Duranty winning the 1932 Pulitzer Prize. Jones, meanwhile, was murdered in Mongolia under mysterious circumstances in 1935.
Speakers at the prayer service emphasized that justice will prevail for victims of both the Holodomor and the current invasion of Ukraine.
In his remarks, Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian ambassador, encouraged attendees by quoting Proverbs 17:22, “A joyful heart is the health of the body, but a depressed spirit dries up the bones,” and 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control.”
“Remain cheerful,” he said. “The enemy wants us to be broken. I want you to leave this service joyful.”
Archbishop Gudziak reminded those gathered that the Lord has “different plans” than those who work evil in the world.
“No matter how much he tries to, the devil and his minions will not prevail,” he said. “And nobody is a stronger witness to this than the people of Ukraine.”
Gina Christian is a National Reporter for OSV News.